Worship Service, August 9, 2020 “Sometimes God Whispers”
Join Holy Trinity church members and Pastor Erik
Sunday morning via YouTube
The message for August 9, 2020 by Pastor Erik,
“Sometimes God Whispers.“
can be heard during HTLC Virtual Worship Service on Sunday.
“Sometimes God Whispers” 1 Kings 19:8-18 8/9/20
For today’s message we have a special guest from the Bible who is going to share his experience with us of how God speaks. I will let him tell you his story…..
Have you ever felt like you were in a cave? I don’t mean a literal cave. I mean have you ever felt like you were in a dark place in your life, like you were all alone and you weren’t sure what to do next?
That’s the kind of place I was in. I was in a cave, but for me it was both figuratively, and literally. I was in a cave on the slopes of Mt. Horeb, and I was in a dark place where I felt all alone and I was not sure what to do next. It felt like God had abandoned me. God seemed silent and this silence was especially frustrating for me. You see, my name is Elijah and I am a prophet.
As a prophet, I know a thing or two about how God speaks. I have experienced God speaking to me in many and various ways. But now I could not discern what it was that God was trying to tell me. It seemed as though my purpose, which had appeared so dramatically clear, was now foggy and dim. My resolve was faltering. I needed something to go on—something that would let me know God still had plans for my life.
It all started months ago. That is when I first felt the tug, when I first felt compelled to speak out. Oh, I had been living the life of a prophet before that time. I had been training with other prophets on how to interpret Scripture. I had been steeping myself in prayer and how to listen for God’s voice. From time to time, I would travel with another prophet and we would speak before the people, delivering God’s message. But when word got to our camp how King Ahab, King of Israel, had married a foreigner and was worshipping foreign gods like Baal, that’s when I first felt the passion burn within me, that is when I became overwhelmed by a holy discontent and the desire to speak the truth, even if it meant speaking truth to power.
So I set out to seek an audience with the king. I was naïve and idealistic enough to believe that the king would receive my message with an open heart, that even though it would be hard to hear, he would realize the error of his ways and would want to change. For I was going to tell the king that God was going to cause a drought to descend upon Israel. Baal, the Canaanite god that Ahab was worshipping, was supposedly a fertility god, a god who controlled the rain and made vegetation grow. Well, Ahab would soon see who really controlled the rain.
But I honestly didn’t think it would come to that. I thought Ahab would change, would repent, and God would relent from bringing the drought. I was wrong. Ahab did not change and God was true to God’s word. A drought came down upon all of Israel and the surrounding regions and I soon found myself hiding in the desert. Yes, that’s right, hiding. Ahab was not too happy about the message I brought him. Even though it was from God, I was God’s representative and it was me King Ahab wanted to get rid of. Maybe he thought if he could get rid of me, then the bad news would go away too.
Of course I was afraid, but at that time like no other in my life, I was keenly aware of God’s presence. Perhaps it is ironic that it took such a crisis to cause me to feel so connected to God. I’m not quite sure what it was, all I know is that I knew what I had done was right. I was convicted that the king needed to hear God’s message even if it meant that my life was now in danger. And the word of the Lord came to me and said, “…hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.”
That’s when I learned that God speaks through creation. I think you might have an idea of what I’m talking about. You who live here in California know what it is like to stand in front of the ocean and feel small against such a vast expanse of water. Or maybe you’ve been in the mountains and looked out at the wide world below you and thought to yourself, “Who am I that God would take care of me?”
That’s how it was for me. Sitting by that bubbling brook of fresh water, looking out at the Jordan River, and being fed by Ravens, I couldn’t help but feel humbled and think, “Who am I that God would take care of me?” Yet, God did take of me and even when the brook dried up, the word of the Lord came to me and told me to go to the town of Zarephath to meet a widow who would supply me with food.
That’s when I learned that God speaks through other people. Here I was an Israelite in a foreign land, a land that at times was enemy territory, and yet when I prevail upon this widow who is a gentile with different beliefs and culture than my own, she allows me to stay with her. Maybe she was the kind of person who had an open heart or maybe she was just desperate, or both. Whatever it was, she trusted me when I said that God had told me the jar of flour would not run out and the jug of oil would not go dry. She believed me what I told her to not be afraid. She decided to act out of faith instead of fear. How interesting that to find such faith, I had to travel to a foreign country. Through the kindness of that widow I heard God speak to me, telling me that the Lord would provide and that even in the most unexpected places there was still hope.
I lived like that for the next three years, accepting the hospitality of strangers, not daring to go back to face King Ahab and his soldiers. Until one day I got that feeling again. It was time—time to go back and face the king. So I returned, and I challenged the king and his prophets of Basal to prove who was really god. That’s when I learned that God can speak in dramatic and miraculous ways. You know how people will sometimes say, “I just wish God would send down a bolt of lightning and tell me what to do?” Well, I experienced that. You see, the challenge went like this: The prophets of Baal, all 450 of them, were to pray to their god to send down fire to light a stack of wood. I was to do the same and whichever god lit the fire would be the true God.
The contest began with a huge crowd watching. The prophets of Baal prayed and danced and made a fuss for hours until they were all exhausted. Then I stepped up and prayed a simple prayer and, wham! Fire from heaven came down and lit the stack of wood. I was so pumped up with adrenaline I couldn’t believe it! The crowd was roaring. They couldn’t believe what God had done. I seized the opportunity to stir them up against the prophets of Baal. I whipped up the mob into a frenzy until they struck down all the prophets of Baal.
You can imagine that this did not set too well with Ahab and Queen Jezebel. The queen was so angry she sent her soldiers after me and once again I found myself on the run—scared for my life. I fled into the desert. The first night an angel of the Lord did appear to me and brought me food, but after that—nothing. There was nothing for forty days and forty nights. Now I was here in this cave. For the first time in the last three years, I doubted—I doubted that God was really directing my life. I doubted that any real change would take place in Israel. How could I be a part of such a great victory only to be on the run again? I was tired of being on the run. I was tired of always being alone. I was in a hard place—stuck in this cave.
It was then that I heard the word of the Lord come to me saying, “What are you doing here Elijah?”
“What do you think God?!?” I replied. “I have been trying my best to serve You and tell your people your word, but the Israelites have rejected your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and put all the good prophets to death. I think I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me.”
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain, for I am about to pass by.” So I went out to the entrance of the cave. Then a powerful wind came and I thought for sure God would be coming. But God was not in the wind. Then an earthquake and a fire came and I thought for sure the power of God would be in the earthquake and the fire. But God was not in the earthquake or the fire. Then there was the sound of a gentle whisper. It was almost imperceptible at first, but there it was. The voice of God—asking me again what I was doing out here in the wilderness. I responded again that I had been zealous for the Lord, but the Israelites were rejecting God’s ways and rejecting the prophets. Now I was the only one left. The voice of God responded by telling me,
“ Go back the way you came. Anoint Jehu, king over Israel. Anoint Elisha to succeed you as prophet. I have still reserved 7,000 people in Israel who have not bowed down to Baal.
God wanted me to anoint a new king? You mean there was hope for a real change? God had in mind someone to help me and take up my work? There were still 7,000 believers in Israel? You mean I wasn’t alone?
That’s when I learned that even though God sometimes speaks in dramatic and miraculous ways, sometimes—maybe even most times—God whispers. God comes to us in ways that are almost imperceptible—ways that are hard to hear unless we are really listening. Maybe it takes entering a hard place before God can get our attention. Maybe it takes being in that cave before we really start to hear. And when we do detect that still, small, voice, what it is that we hear? We hear challenging words, we hear comforting words. We hear God telling us,
“Get back on your feet. Get back into life. Real change is possible, and I can assure you that you are not alone.
This is probably not really news to you as Christians. For you already know that after Jesus died and rose again, he told his followers that he would always be with them. But perhaps there are times when you felt like I did, like you are in a cave, like God has been silent for awhile, like you want a more clear picture of the direction you should go. Please, if you experience a time like that, don’t give up! Keep listening! It is not that God isn’t there. It’s just that sometimes…God whispers.
-Pastor Erik Goehner
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